Originally posted at my Blogspot site on Oct. 26, 2012….site is no longer active
I was at a RUSH concert in Toronto last week. I love that band, I have been a fan of RUSH since I was a little kid. I’ve been listening to that band for something like 30 years. That is a lot of Geddy Lee bass. It was the early ‘90’s the last time I saw RUSH live on stage. It had been way, way too long. Since then I have listened to their music, bought and watched RUSH dvds and watched the band on the internet. My wife and I headed into Toronto, looking forward to seeing a great show. I joked with my wife about seeing all the ‘Fanboys’ roaming around the ACC, geeked out on RUSH. To which she reminded me that I would fit right in with most of those ‘Fanboys’. Which is somewhat true. I’m not what I would call a hardcore RUSH fan. I don’t play an instrument, and I don’t have every lyric from every song memorized. The ‘Fanboys’ I joked, would be the guys air drumming and singing away all night. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that RUSH has ‘Fanboys’. It means the band has obtained a certain status in our culture. It means acceptance in a lot of ways. Growing up when I did, I was one of a few RUSH fans my age.
The RUSH fans were a bit older than me, they had been around when RUSH was touring in the ‘70’s. I was still in diapers in the mid 1970’s, so I wasn’t quite there with the core RUSH fans at that time. I knew very few RUSH fans back in the 80’s and early ‘90’s. Just about everyone knew who RUSH was, which definitely said something about the airplay the band was getting, but very few actual fans. But then again, that was Canada back then, the hard rock seen was in the forefront. There were only a handful of really successful Canadian bands in the hard rock genre. Bryan Adams was huge, but wasn’t my cup of tea. I did projects on RUSH in high school, which led to a bit of ridicule among my peers. Nothing I wasn’t willing to take though. Recently it has been really cool to see RUSH showing up in popular culture. Stephen Colbert had them on his show a couple of years ago now. The movie ‘I Love You Man’ had a ton of RUSH in it. There is a great scene in the movie ‘Fanboys’ in which RUSH is featured as the music of choice in the character Hutch’s van. Even more recently, RUSH is on the ballot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Finally. It is a travesty that RUSH is not already in the Hall in my opinion.
I was told on Facebook recently by an old friend that whenever he hears RUSH on the radio he thinks of me. I hadn’t talked to this guy in decades, not since early high school. That was a cool moment. I take great pride in the fact that I have been loyal to RUSH all these years. Finally, RUSH seem to be getting the respect they deserve from the non-RUSH fans out there. Which brings me back to the concert we were at last week. I was utterly amazed at the RUSH fans we ran into. Geddy and the boys have gone on record in the past saying that the vast, vast majority of RUSH fans they see night after night are guys.
Which is still true, at least based on what we saw. But, there were a ton of women at the Air Canada Centre that night. I would guess it was about a 5 to 1 ratio (that being five guys to every woman), which is pretty good. Of those women roaming the halls, I would say more than half of them appeared to be actual RUSH fans. My wife is not a hardcore RUSH fan at all. She likes the band, she appreciates them and has for some time. I’ve known her for most of my life, and so she’s been exposed to RUSH for years because of me. She is a huge music fan, and has listened to her fair share of RUSH without me, but my RUSH fandom has definitely cast a large shadow over her RUSH experience. At this concert, I had expected to see a ton of women like my wife, women who lived with RUSH fans, appreciated the band and had decided to go with their significant other to a RUSH concert. Kind of a mercy concert? So I was surprised to see quite a lot of hardcore ‘Fangirls’ at that show. It was a sign to me that RUSH had expanded its borders so to speak. Having said that, it wasn’t the women I was most surprised at, it was the age of the concert goers that was the most amazing to me. At previous RUSH concerts I was always among the younger crowd which made sense to me, based on the popularity of the band among my peers, RUSH was an older fanbase. I was bombarded with young faces all over the concourses at the Air Canada Centre. Sitting right behind us was a ten-year old boy with his parents. He sat with his ear plugs in and appeared mesmerized by the show. I saw him right up on the edge of his seat a couple of times, which was an absolute blast to witness.
Next to these three people were an older couple (well, older than us at least – they were approaching 50) with her teenage son and a couple of his friends. The teens were musicians and loved RUSH. So three of these kids brought their parents to the concert, the parents had grown up listening to the band but weren’t big fans. My wife and I had a great time chatting with these folks during the intermission. Everyone we ran into was in a great mood and were more than happy to chat away about RUSH. The vibe in the building was just amazing, everyone was there for one reason – to see an iconic Canadian band. The RUSH show that night caused a flood of memories and emotions for me. I watched these young kids wandering around and immediately was reminded of myself and my friends taking the GO Train years ago to watch RUSH at Maple Leaf Gardens. It was such a great feeling of independence back then. We never got into any trouble, we were there to watch the show, we didn’t want to miss out on it in any way. We would get into Union Station, run out grab a street vendor hot dog and a coke, then rush back into to catch a subway up to the Gardens. It was always such a great time heading into Toronto back in those days. Toronto, as reputation goes, is a pretty safe big city and very clean, well….back then it was really safe. Which meant we had almost no fear of being on our own roaming the big city streets. I loved seeing the faces of those young kids last week, getting to experience that same thing I did twenty-something-years ago.
When we got to our seats, we settled in with our giant beers pretty quickly and were looking directly at the stage. The stage show hasn’t changed all that much over the years, obviously there have been some tweaks here and there, but basically it was a RUSH stage. The ACC was abuzz with anticipation, the air was absolutely electric in there. Everyone I looked at had a similar expression…it is hard to describe exactly, it was definitely happiness mixed with glee and a few other similar emotions. There was also a familiarity among everyone. Most of us in that building had been following RUSH for decades. Most of us knew what we were in for. Most of us had been to several RUSH concerts, had watched several RUSH concerts on DVD and had listened to some of those older songs a million times. That familiarity with the band, their show and their music was a great feeling. It was like going home for Christmas. Here I was in Toronto, at the home of the Maple Leafs, about to watch RUSH perform Tom Sawyer. It is a weird yet comforting bond among most RUSH fans.
Not too long after we sat down, the ACC went pitch black inside, except for the faint glow coming from the exit signs around the arena. Then, I got chills and a feeling of utter euphoria as the opening keyboards from the song Subdivisions came screaming towards me, rocked my ears and then bounced loudly off the walls all around me. The crowd came alive all at once, and it seemed like forever, but within seconds the lights blared at us……RUSH & close to 20,000 cheering fans were off on a familiar journey. There we all we, watching a few old friends do what they do best. What a night it was, it was just a great show.
I remember looking next to me at wife early in the show. She was watching the show, smiling away, lightly bouncing in time to the sounds rocketing towards us from the stage down below. I realized, again, how awesome she is. Not many couples can do that. Not many couples have as much in common as we do. Not many couple enjoy each other as much as we do. In that moment, I was in about as good a place as I could be. I would never be upset if I have to go to concerts with only her for the rest of my life. I don’t think I would want it any other way actually.
At one point in the show, I caught myself staring up at Wendel Clark’s banner up in the rafters. Clark is my favourite Leaf player of all time, so I always check out his banner when I am there. For a few seconds I stared at all those banners, Sundin, Sittler, Salming, Apps, Barilko…..I watched them swaying up in the rafters with the light show bouncing off them. Smoke from the few pyro elements of the show were hanging around up there in a haze. Again, memories came flooding back to me, from being a little kid at Maple Leaf Gardens. Back then there were no banners (the owner back then, Harold Ballard didn’t put any up) but there was smoking allowed in the building, and the Gardens always had this low hanging haze of smoke from cigarettes, weed, cigars and pyro. Last week, seeing those banners while watching RUSH reminded me of why I love coming arenas and stadiums. My idols are there. The ghosts of the players who have passed away are all over the place. My memories of players who are now retired are all over the place. My memories of past RUSH shows are all over the place. Being there, live, is so much better than watching games on tv, or concerts on DVD. The atmosphere of the building never accurately comes across on the television. The memories of being there live are intoxicating, while the memories of sitting on my couch and watching it all on tv, is just boring. I sat there, gazing at those banners trying to remember all the times I had sat in the Air Canada Centre or Maple Leaf Gardens watching the Leafs or RUSH. I couldn’t come up with a number, I couldn’t even ballpark it. I grew up watching the Leafs, I grew up listening to RUSH and these arenas were the places I got to actually get up close to these larger than life figures. Larger than life at least to me. I caught myself in a bit of a trance staring at those banners, my mind swimming past memories. I realized how thankful I was to have had the opportunity over the years to be able watch live hockey games and concerts. The show, the venue and the journey to and from can never be duplicated on a couch.
I realized years ago how much RUSH has shaped me, how much influence RUSH and their music has had on me, how much RUSH has meant to me over the years, it flooded back as I sat there mesmerized by the show. I have a history with RUSH, and RUSH has a history with me. We’ve been building and sharing this history for about 30 years now, give or take, I’m not 100% sure of the exact number. Whether I ever get lucky enough to see RUSH again, one thing is for sure, I will be listening to them until my last breath escapes me. And if I do get lucky enough to see RUSH again before I die, I’m hoping and praying my wife will once again be sitting there next to me.
RUSH, what a band, what a show. Thanks boys, it was a brilliant evening, another one I won’t forget.